2017-09 Two-potter eagle-tail seed jar

Object ID:
2017-09

Artist:
Hisi Nampeyo, Steve Lucas

Dimensions:
4.375 h X 10.1875 w

This one pot had two makers and is an example of persistent beauty, a new rendition of  the Nampeyo more casual low-shouldered eagle-tail jar 2005-16.

As on Nampeyo’s jar, the design on 2017-09 is enlivened by 1) the contrast between the linear tails and the curvalinear wing elements amd 2) the use of negative space to frame the painted image.  Like Nampeyo, color integrates the design, but here the technique is different: the color of the background integrates by highlighting the cross-shaped back design.

While the eage-tail design is often used (see “Category List”), no rendition is more elegant that than on pot 2017-09.  The top design is (almost) monochromatic, black paint on plain clay, but the vivid blushing of the background contrasts with the design, and this combination is an eye magnet.  Both Hisi (Quotskuyva) Nampeyo and Steve Lucas signed the pot and I am guessing that Steve formed the vessel and Hisi did the painting.

The form of pot 2017-09 (flying-saucer shape  with a slight lip) was characteristic of prehistoric Sikyatki pottery and was adopted by Nampeyo.  Her rendition of this design (2005-16)  is painted on  a pot of the same shape but with thicker walls than 2017-09.   The walls of pot 2017-09 are unusually thin and even and thus this pot is surprisingly light for its size.  When tapped with a finger, the pot rings with a somewhat high pitch.  A pure high-pitch resonance is evidence that a pot was kiln-fired.  The sound of this pot is less certain.  It may have been kiln-fired, but my best guess is that it was outdoor-fired but rings with a high pitch because of its size and thinness.  As noted below, the jar was first sold about ten years before I bought it, the design scratched in shipping, and then it was repaired by either Hisi or Steve before finally being sold to me.  The design is fired-on the pot and was not merely over-painted. I have not yet been able to talk with either of these artists about this pot and it is unclear how the repair was made.   The pot may have been fired twice.  The blushing seen on seedpot 2017-09 is generally evidence of outdoor firing, but some younger potters use a combination of slips and sometimes a blowtorch to achieve such blushing. This is a a complicated history and the production process of this pot is unclear, as is its resonance.

The blushing of the pot is vivid but also varied, like a golden sunset of clouds.  Against this background the black design is painted with a very precise and light hand and is repeated four times on a matte finish.  The black paint is particularly consistent and dark and thus sharply contrasts with the blushed golden background.  Each of the four renditions of design contain a set of four tails.  Each tail has a black J-shaped area that incorporates the tip and extends to form a black rectangle.  The unpainted surface of each tail merge into a unpainted area that connects the four tails.  Easily overlooked is a maroon Z-shaped line that borders the black segement of each tail and separates it from the unpainted surface.  The result is an almost subliminal variation of color that enriches the eagle-tail design.

The waist of the pot is decorated with an unbroken thick black stripe.  Below, the bowl is covered with a micaeous red-maroon slip.   A group of younger Hopi potters were trained by Dextra Quotskuyva, including daughter Hisi Quotskuyva’s companion Loren Ami, grandson Lowell Cheresposy, and nephew Steve Lucas.  All of these potters at times have used the same red-maroon micaeous slip seen on 2017-09 to cover the lower half of their pots. (See 2011-23, 2011-26 and 2010-23).

Pot 2017-09 and Mark Tahbo’s monochromatic jar 1992-02 are arguably the most elegant pots in this collection.

Purchase History:
Purchased with a phone bid from Alterman Galleries and Auctioneers on August 12, 2017 (Lot #295). The pot was originally sold by Alterman’s in 2010 but the paint was damaged in shipping and it was returned to the gallery. Alterman’s asked either Hisi or Steve to repair the painting and this was done. The pot was subsequently offered at several different Alterman auctions before I purchased it.